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Battle of Rights:
Rights for the People or Opposing Factions
Davina Peter
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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Digital technology has both enhanced and complicated people's way of life. It has enhanced people's lives by simplifying tasks to be accomplished at the touch of a button. Yet, it has complicated the situation between copyright holders and pirates. After Napster was established, the piracy of music established a profound threat against the music industry, as well as against other copyright-protected businesses like movie studios and book publishers. Mike Godwin discusses the recent controversies of digital technology in the article "Hollywood vs. the Internet" from Reason magazine. He categorizes the record companies, movie and TV studios into what he calls the content faction. The content faction's opponent is the tech faction who is the producers of computers and other digital technology (173). In recent years computers have become a part of TV and music entertainment systems. Since the convergence of computers into the entertainment systems, the content faction intensified their fight against piracy. The computers allow for more piracy to occur by making it easier to copy and distribute copyrighted material through the Internet. The tech faction extends more power to the user by creating computers that possess this ability. Despite the computer's ability to increase piracy, the tech faction wants to sell their product. Overall, both factions oppose each other but seek the same goal: the goal to get as much profit as possible from their product. Caught in the middle of this struggle are the everyday consumers who will have to pay a great price. Music and movie copyright holders' proposal that all digital technology should contain new and advanced forms of copyright protection will ultimately make consumers lose their money and their rights and therefore cause them to suffer much more than the technology producers who will be obligated to put more effort into a product that will subsequently offer less to consumers; therefore, the copyright holders should subdue their proposal.

The increase of piracy over the Internet caused an uprising great enough to cause a division in the industry world. The music and movie industries realized that the technology of computers and the Internet created a pleasant atmosphere for piracy to occur against them. The technology industries wish to provide their consumers with more options on their product. Both industries want to protect their profit; therefore, they take a stand alongside their respective factions, the content and tech factions. Both the content and tech factions have agreed on a bill called Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA, of 1998. This act "prohibits the creation, dissemination, and use of tools that circumvent DRM technologies" (Godwin 175). DRM stands for digital rights management which "prevents copyright infringement" (Godwin 175). The tech faction considers the insertion of DRM systems into all new digital devices an extreme measure because they want to give their customers more options (Godwin 175). These options include using one's computers, mp3 players, and etc in any way convenient to the user (Godwin 175). Later, the Hollings legislation created a bill that would allow no new computer to be built with out a government approved security device that prevents the copying of copyright material (Godwin 177). The digital technology of today will not be compatible with the new content faction protection devices. The consumers will have difficulty using old products with the newer products. When a consumer uses an old legitimate CD on one of the newly proposed copyright protected CD players, it will not play the CD. The copyright protection device in the new CD players will not recognize the CD as authentic, because the CD does not contain a corresponding copyright device (Godwin 174). Both factions made a stand in Congress but the people have yet to make their statement on the situation. The consumers must live with the outcome of the debate among the two factions and Congress. The content faction's demands require the tech faction to change, but this demand could take a turn for the worse.

Godwin provides information of this new controversy that will open the eyes of the public of the possible future. The content faction is taking a stand to protect their product from the rise of piracy by demanding that all digital systems be incorporated with a mechanism that would prevent copyright violations. A specific mechanism is the "watermark" that would control entertainment systems from any copying standards. The watermark mechanism would be installed in various entertainment systems: VCRs, CD and DVD players, TV and radio receivers, amplifiers, and speakers (Godwin 174). This watermark would be invisible to the eye but entertainment systems would recognize it (174). From these standards, the public would no longer be able to do simple tasks such as moving files on a computer to another computer, or to play an old DVD. "Under the system proposed by the studios, a person would not be able to record a show in one place and retrieve it over the internet to watch it someplace else even in another room of his or her house" (Harmon 2). In some ways it infringes on the rights of the people in such cases when consumers, who have old legitimate DVD movies without the watermark standard, will not be able to play their movie on the DRM entertainment systems. People might not want to buy new systems if those systems are limited in their use. "Why trade in last year's feature-rich laptop for a new one that, while faster, has fewer capabilities?" (Godwin 178). The Internet as well must change according to the content faction. "Internet users should be very concerned about whether they will be able to do things that today they reasonably expect to do in the future" (Davidson qtd. in Harmon 2). With this in mind, the tech faction worries about their profit if watermark systems are installed. If the content faction succeeds in their goals, it is the consumers and tech faction that must change.

Godwin also explains the other side of the debate, the tech faction. They wish to support copyright laws, but they choose to not follow the extreme measures of the content faction (173). One tech faction associate, Microsoft, has also become a victim to piracy where over "two million web sites world-wide sell pirated Microsoft products" (Prystay 2). The current computer hardware and software manufacturers are creating an ideal situation for their software to be copied and distributed. Hardware, like computers, and DVD/CD burner intensify piracy. New computer are made to keep more data and to be used at a higher speed. This allows for downloaded material to be saved and used at good quality. Software like DVD burners allows people the option of how they want to copy a movie. The increase of broadband use has a correlation to the increase of piracy. Studies show that "Countries with broadband see the most downloads" (Hui qtd. in Prystay 1). An industry group named Business Software Alliance researched that "50% of all business software being used in Asia is copied or counterfeit" (Prystay 2). 94% of China's businesses use illegal software (Prystay 2). Despite this situation the tech faction refuses to follow content faction's request for piracy prevention. Emery Simon of the Business Software Alliance announces, "We are strongly antipiracy, but we think mandating these protections is an abysmally stupid idea" (Godwin 175). The tech faction views their customers as users, therefore; they aim to give their users more options on whatever product they are selling. This faction does not want to sell a product that would also assume the role of a copyright police officer. This faction realizes the wrong done to the content faction because the tech faction is also the recipient of wrongdoing. Despite the tech factions understanding of the situation, they would rather gain profit than help the copyright holders. Because the content faction wishes to watch over what people do, the consumers just might favor the tech faction because this faction is giving them more options and more freedom.

The two factions are fighting to protect their profit; congress has yet to hear the voice of the people. People would be more willing to voice their opinion if they knew all that needs to be known, such as the consequence of installing DRM devices in all digital technology. Consumers' investments, in products such as old DVDs, CDs, and Mp3s, will be a loss because all of these products will not work with DRM devices. If the content faction wins this debate, lifestyle for the consumer will change dramatically from how a computer is used to what a person watches in their own house. The consumers must also be informed of the devastating impact piracy can be to a company and its workers. When major industries suffer from loss of consumers, it will eventually affect the general economy. For industries, loosing consumers means loosing money and this will inhibit the company from keeping and paying their workers. The workers of these companies are also consumers. When these workers are not paid, or even lose their jobs, they can not purchase products offered by the major industries. The situation becomes a vicious cycle. The act of piracy is not debatable, but the ideology for prevention differs. The consumers must worry about both the industries and their own personal benefits. The question is how much freedom is the customer willing to give up in order to maintain economic stability and justice.

Works Cited

Godwin, Mike. "Hollywood vs. the Internet." Speculations. Ed. Landrum, Sivils, Squires. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co.: Dubuque, 2003. 172-179.

Harmon, Amy. "Movie Studios Press Congressin Digital Copyright Dispute." New York Times. (Late Edition (East Coast)). New York, N.Y.:Jul 29, 2002. pg. C.3.

Prystay, Cris. "Broadband Adds Complications to Piracy Battle." Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Oct 8, 2002. pg. B.5.

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